Retro: Colored Pencils

colored pencilsGive kids a break from swiping phone and tablet screens. Colored pencils are an excellent gift that help develop fine motor skills.

Children under three years of age do best with the chubby, extra thick colored pencils. The color is more vibrant than washable crayons, and the pencils are less likely to snap in half. Sharpen just enough for little kids. As soon as your child can hold a thick pencil, drawing is all about lines and scribbling—drawing something that looks like something develops around three years of age.

For older children, regular-sized colored pencils come in every color. They last a long time and don’t dry out like markers.



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Reading the Box: Tiny Cold Tablets


These tablets are made from lactose and acacia gum to which has been added diluted components that cause sneezing, headache, runny nose and eyes.

Homeopathy works on the belief that “like cures like,” and that if you dilute something that causes the same symptoms that you have, it will magically neutralize these same symptoms. There is more about homeopathy here.

The science of cough and cold treatment for babies and toddlers is home care with fluids, rest, and a cool mist humidifier. These tablets won’t work much better than a placebo, although since they are lactose sugar pills, they are probably quite tasty!

If pediatricians had something that was safe and effective to treat little kids’ respiratory infections, we would make sure all our parents knew about it!

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Home Remedies for Colds from Around the World

During the cough and cold season, I always remember this article from Pediatrics in Review about Home Remedies for Colds from Around the World. Home care is what doctors recommend when the body needs a tincture of time to heal itself. Teas and soups are universal, while ocean swimming in Hawaii to clear the nose and the coconut massage in Micronesia sound equally restorative.


Cold Remedies Around the World

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Reading the Box: Product Information

Cough Medicine

In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration made sweeping changes to the children’s cold and cough medicine aisle. Cough and cold medicines are not effective in children and can be unsafe. Products for children under 2 years of age were removed and other products were labeled not for use in children less than 4 years of age. See the FDA information for parents here.

The product shown here, sold as a dietary supplement, claims to treat cough in children over 12 months of age. The FDA letter to Zarbee’s regarding their violations and deficiencies is here.

This company’s product contains zinc and grapefruit extract, ingredients without much effect on cough. It also includes honey which worked better than placebo in a recent study.

More on why cough medicines don’t really work is here.

See a previous post on cough and cold medicine ingredients here.

Is there a product or claim you’re curious about?

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The Grade School 15

15 poundsThe freshman 15 is weight gain most young adults don’t want or need, but there’s another time surprising time some kids can gain weight without cramming all night eating pizza: it’s between first and third grade.

Researchers followed a diverse group of nearly 6000 children for 9 years and found that the early school years may be a critical time for increases in the body mass index (BMI).

At the beginning of the study, 40% of the kindergarteners had BMIs greater than or equal to 75% (a BMI over 85% is considered overweight). The children were measured through eighth grade, and the largest increases in their BMI were between first and third grade.

1 in 3 children in the US are currently overweight or obese. This raises their risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.

A child with a BMI for age and gender over the 95th% is considered obsess.

The rate of obesity for 2-5 year olds was 10%

The rate of obesity for 6-11 year olds was 19%.

This rate is stable and sometimes decreases among adolescents 12 to 19 years old.

The study, published in Pediatrics, measured the children but they did not track their physical activity or calorie intake. Decreased physical activity sitting in class, shortened recess and limited physical education sessions affect calories burned. Calorie-dense processed and packaged food adds calories. Screen time takes away from play time. Piles of homework for young students also take time away from play.

To avoid the grade school 15, shut off the screens and let children play. Check how many hours the teacher says homework should take and provide feedback. Look at school lunch food and drinks and guide your child to make healthy choices. If the menu is high fat burgers and pizza, pack lunch. Check out Brown Bag Lunch ideas here.

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Hidden Veggies?


The kids who eat vegetables are the kids whose parents eat vegetables and whose parents buy and serve vegetables. They are the kids whose parents limit the serving size of other foods so that kids don’t fill up on the empty calories in rice, pasta, bread and starchy vegetables like corn, peas and potatoes.

Hiding vegetables by blending or juicing them into smoothies is a path some parents take. If kids are also exposed to a wide variety of cooked and raw vegetables, this is a nice way to boost nutrition, but it can never replace the ultimate nutrition kids get by eating vegetables chock full of fiber, micronutrients and phytochemicals.

Vegetables aren’t sweet or salty or fatty—the things humans crave. They are, however, tasty in their own way and loaded with great things. Vegetables are a discipline and a practice. They should be tried again and again and not hidden until they can be enjoyed. Don’t fight with kids. Provide an age-appropriate serving of rice, pasta, tortilla, naan, or baguette and let the child decide what other foods he or she is still hungry enough to eat.

Now for some pasta box math.

The pasta product shown says it has one serving of vegetables in 4 ounces.

A 2 ounce serving of dry pasta equals 1 cup of cooked pasta and 200 calories.

When cooked, 4 ounces of this pasta makes 2 cups cooked pasta with 400 calories.

A serving size of pasta for a children up to age 12 years is 1/2 cup.

A child who eats 1/2 cup of this pasta adds 1/4 serving of vegetables to his or her diet.

To get 1 serving of vegetables, a child must eat 2 cups of this pasta—which is 4 servings of carbohydrates and more than half the child’s daily allowance.

The ingredients list dried corn first followed by dried squash and dried carrot. Corn is another starchy carbohydrate, so this pasta is no way to add vegetables to the diet!

Hidden veggies? Very.

For more on advertising sleight of hand and the halo effect of making nutrition claims, check out the Center for Science in the Public Interest and their newsletter Nutrition Action here.

There’s more kids versus vegetables information in the Food Challenge and Vegetable Resolution posts.

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Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes

Fail not!

Start with one small, easy change and work from there.

Make lasting change one small success at a time.

Diabetes Prevention Tips

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SportsHonoring the Game is part of the Positive Coaching Alliance’s mission to develop better athletes and better people.

There’s information about the coach-parent partnership here.

How parents can contribute to a positive game experience is here.

Read about their work at where you’ll find tools and coaching tips.

And finally, I offer this unrelated, unvarnished and thought-provoking essay on youth sports from ER physician Dr. Louis Profeta here.

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Talking to Children about Ebola

Specific information from the American Academy of Pediatrics about talking to children about the ebola virus follows along with more general information about parenting in uncertain times from the Bay Area’s Bananas.




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The Overstimulated Newborn

Signs Baby is Overstimulated.theBump.2014

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